Anna Comnena, heir to the Byzantine throne, sees her dreams dashed to pieces. Anna was once the most fortunate being on Earth. She was the heir to the illustrious Byzantine throne and her father, the emperor, loved her the best of his children. Now Anna's dreams are gone, and she idles her days away in a convent, banished from the world. To pass the dreary time and explain her fall from glory, she records her story.
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Even as a young child, Anna is raised and treated as the future ruler. She attends lessons with her tutor Simon and receives diplomacy lessons from her grandmother. However, as Anna embraces the unsportsmanlike tactics of war she is taught, her mother, Irene Ducas, disapproves of the loss of morals. Anna thinks only of her future, ambitious and confident.
However, her grandmother, Anna Dassalena, sees that her position as trusted, influential advisor may be compromised, as Anna has a mind of her own, and will be nobody's puppet. Anna's caring tutor warns her about ‘flying too near the sun' like Icarus in the Greek myth. But Anna does not heed his warning and Grandmother takes her revenge.
Slyly, Grandmother eavesdrops and informs the emperor, Anna's father, that Anna tried to kill her brother and is therefore unfit to rule. This attempted ‘murder' happened when Anna, then 6 years old, commented on her baby brother's handsomeness.
Anna knows that the real reasons her Grandmother schemed against her. Grandmother hates the Ducases, including Anna's husband-to-be, and could not bear to see one ruling on the throne. More importantly, Grandmother feared that Anna would want to run her own empire with none of her guidance.
Anna's father, believing that he is saving the empire from such a bloodthirsty, heartless ruler, sadly but firmly revokes Anna's right to the throne, and bestows it upon John, the aforementioned younger brother. This is especially hard on Anna as John is a spoiled, malicious, manipulative brat who cannot even write his own name. Anna always resented her annoying brother, and this feeling turns into hate. She seeks revenge on those who brought her down.
Things go from bad to worse, as John and Grandmother continue to make Anna's life miserable. Having taken away her crown and husband, they suggest that she is an illegitimate child. When her father (who really is her father) dies, reasserting his will that John take the crown, Anna feels that life is not worth living anymore. She decides to poison John.
Anna is caught in the act, betrayed by her tutor, who says that he did it for her own good. She is shipped to the convent, the gloating faces of her brother and grandmother stuck in her mind. She lives the rest of her life retelling and reliving her life at the palace.
Best part of story, including ending:
Anna's grandmother is so evil and cunning that it gets on your nerves. Grandmother sneaks around so she can hear things she is not supposed to hear. Then she uses this information to her benefit and others' downfall. She does not care what rules she breaks as long as she accomplishes her goal.
Best scene in story:
Anna is playing with the sacred chalice, which she took from the church. Her mother comes and just as Anna is about to be discovered, her maid slyly takes the chalice from her and hides it, rescuing Anna. Although Anna was skeptical of her maid's competence, after this incident they bond.
Opinion about the main character:
Anna is vengeful and unforgiving. She does not conceal her hate for people well, nor can she forget a grudge.